As the new year begins, we expect 2017 will bring increased investments in energy efficiency and other efforts to save energy.
The energy efficiency investment picture indicates that savings will continue to grow. Spending on energy-efficient goods and services as well as employment in energy efficiency jobs has increased in recent years, and these trends will likely continue. The International Energy Agency estimates that energy efficiency spending increased about 6% from 2014 to 2015, with 2015 spending totaling about $221 billion in major economies throughout the world (2016 figures not yet available). Similarly for the United States, BW Research in a report for the Department of Energy, found that 1.9 million Americans work full- or part-time energy efficiency jobs and that companies planned to hire another 260,000 energy efficiency workers in 2016. This job growth is spurred by a growing private sector focus on energy efficiency and strong policies, particularly at the state and local levels.
Federal policy forecast is less clear
With the Trump administration about to take office, some changes are likely at the federal level. Since the president-elect and his appointees have said little about energy efficiency, however, we do not have clear signals. As I wrote after the election, there may be opportunities for energy efficiency in an infrastructure package and as part of tax reform. On the other hand, there may be a need to defend existing federal energy efficiency policies and budgets if they come under attack. Budget issues will be debated by Congress in the spring (for the second half of the 2017 fiscal year) and summer and fall (for the 2018 fiscal year). A few energy efficiency regulations finalized by the Obama administration in recent months could be reconsidered by Congress this spring under the Congressional Review Act, a law that allows Congress to override recent regulations. However, there’s also a good chance that the limited Congressional floor time available for regulatory review will not be used for any energy efficiency regulations. Other legislative and regulatory actions will probably unfold gradually as the year progresses. They could roll back certain regulations or make it more difficult to issue new regulations. As the situation becomes clearer, I’ll write another blog post focused specifically on federal changes.
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